Why Wine and Macbooks Don't Mix...and How to Handle the Aftermath


Ready for a revelation? A concept that you've never considered before? Well here it is: never ever, ever pour a glass of wine into your Macbook keyboard. Or, more practically put, be extremely careful when there's a drink of any kind near your laptop. If a spill occurs, and you don't act quickly enough, you'll find yourself staring at a massive bill for a new logic board, hard-drive, battery, and anything in between.

Accidents do happen -- so plan on it. What's more important is that you learn exactly what to do when these spills inevitably occur.

Republished Tutorial

Every few weeks, we revisit some of our reader's favorite posts from throughout the history of the site. This tutorial was first published in July, 2010.

Step 1. Don't Freeze. Unplug!

Macbook Wine Spill

Ahhhh! The wife (meaning, you) accidentally spilled wine all over your keyboard. From personal experience, I can assure you that, for some odd reason, your first instinct with a massive computer spill is to freeze for five seconds or so, in shock. Don't do this! Luckily Apple laptops are pretty helpful about automatically shutting down to prevent as many issues as possible before they happen. The more recent laptops even have liquid detection...though I'm certain that Apple is more interested in voiding your warranty than protecting you. For those uninformed, most laptop warranties do not cover spills.

Nonetheless, don't waste a single second. Quickly unplug the computer, and shut it down.

The walls and carpet may have liquid on them as well, but ignore that. The computer is far more important right now.

Step 2. Flip that Sucka

Turn the laptop over to let the liquid drain

The next step, which should occur within seconds of beginning Step 1, is to flip the laptop upside down, into an L-shape. Gravity will then force as much liquid to drain out of the keyboard as possible. Make sure that you lay it on a towel so that it can soak up the liquid.

Let gravity do its job. Immediately flip the laptop into an L-shape.

Step 3. Open the Back

Unscrew the laptop to reveal the insides

Using a tiny screw driver, unscrew the back-side of your laptop. This will, of course, vary, depending upon which model you're using. I'm sure you can figure it out.

Particularly on Macs, not all of the screws are the same size. Make a note of which screw goes where.

Step 4. Remove the Battery and Hard Drive

Remove the Macbook Pro battery

Before progressing, ensure your livelihood and touch some metal objects nearby to remove any potential static electricity from your body.

Needless to say, batteries and liquids -- especially sugary, acidic liquids -- don't play nice together. Wherever yours is located on your laptop, remove it as quickly as possible. Next, get the hard drive out as well. We don't want to risk any liquid seeping in, and corrupting your file system!

And now that you know how easy it is to remove a hard drive, don't ever again pay a person to upgrade your hard drive. It only takes a moment to do yourself. ;)

Step 5. Dry the Insides

Clean the insides of the computer after a drink spill

With a paper towel of some sort, begin cleaning the insides of your computer. Depending upon how much liquid was spilled, this may either be a quick or lengthy process. For yours truly, it took around ten minutes to clean everything.

Some people prefer to use a hair dryer to clean the insides. This one is up to you; however, I'd encourage you to not do so. Play it safe and use a towel. We don't want to risk frying the insides.

Step 6. Rubbing Alcohol and Cotton

Clean the insides with a cotton swab

Next, we need to continue removing as much sugar and acid as possible from the logic board. Otherwise, over time, it can begin to corrode the wiring. Yeah, this isn't good!

Using rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab, begin dabbing any stained areas -- but be gentle. If you have access to the backside of your keyboard, clean that area as well. Unfortunately, on the newer Macbook Pro models, it's extremely difficult to access this section. With past models, it was quite easy to remove the keyboard entirely, for cleaning purposes. Unfortunately, that's no longer the case.

Rubbing alcohol will help dissolve any remaining acid or sugar on the logic board.

Step 7. Leave it Alone

Leave the computer off for 3-5 days after a spill

Anxiety is a dangerous thing. Resist the urge to determine whether or not you've destroyed your laptop, and keep it off for a minimum of 72-120 hours (3-5 days). This will allow any remaining liquid to dry/evaporate first. Make sure that, while its drying, you keep the battery outside of the computer. This is mostly a precaution.

Keep the computer off for 3-5 days -- no questions asked. Do not turn it on during this window.

Step 8. Cross Your Fingers

Cross your fingers

After 72-120 hours, reconnect the battery, screw everything back in, cross your fingers, say a prayer, and turn on the computer. Particularly if you're using a newer Macbook Pro (2010+ models), you've done everything you can do. With hope, and more often than not, it'll chime, and start-up like a charm. However, if the battery is dead, or the hard drive is corrupted, you're next best option is to take it in for official repair. Of course, this will somewhat depend upon how skilled you are, when working under the hood.

About the Author

Jeffrey Way -- me...yes, I'm speaking in third person -- once committed a Cardinal Sin, and caused a massive wine spill into his Macbook Pro. Had he not followed these exact steps, he'd be forking over another life savings for a new Mac. Luckily, that was not the case.

Thanks for reading. Should the same ever happen to you, I hope this guide will help a bit!

Related Posts
  • Crafts & DIY
    How to Make Mosaic Shell Easter EggsMosaiceggs 400x277finalnew2
    In this tutorial, you'll learn how to use egg shells to create your own fabulous mosaic eggs for Easter. Read More…
  • Computer Skills
    OS X
    Finding Hardware Faults: Exploring AHT & Apple DiagnosticsAht preview retina
    Alongside the tools provided for identifying software issues with your Mac, Apple also makes sure that you can examine your hardware for possible faults. These hardware diagnostic tools have evolved over the years, so in this tutorial I will cover the two incarnations that exist: the venerable Apple Hardware Test (AHT), and the newer Apple Diagnostics tool that replaced it. In this tutorial I'll show you how you can use these helpful utilities to keep an eye on the components that make your Mac tick.Read More…
  • Computer Skills
    App Training
    How to Import Photographs From Your Camera to Your MacImagecapturelogo400
    Transferring photographs from a camera to a computer can be a rather confusing process, especially if you have recently transitioned from analogue to digital photography, have transitioned from using a PC to a Mac or are just new to the Mac. In this tutorial, I will show you three different ways to import photographs, from your camera to your Mac, using a card reader or camera cable.Read More…
  • Photography
    Shooting a Red Hot Chili Pepper: Flaming Food PhotographyDaniels chili prelg
    In this tutorial, I'll show you how to do some commercial food photography and set it on fire! I'm going to take you through a step-by-step process of food photography, setting it ablaze, and all the lessons learned. So, get your camera, lights, and flammable fluids ready!Read More…
  • Computer Skills
    Help! My Mac Won't Turn On!Power
    The unthinkable has happened. Your $2,000 investment has decided to kick the bucket and not turn on. What do you do? Throw it out? Sell it as “slightly-used” online? Go and buy a new computer? No, because we have some great ways that can help bring your computer back from the dead.Read More…
  • Computer Skills
    How to Upgrade Your MacBook Pro to an SSDSsd%20free.1
    Following on from the previous post on upgrading your MacBook Pro’s RAM, today we have a tutorial on how to fit your Mac with a speedy Solid-State Drive (SSD). Upgrading RAM was a relatively cheap way to increase the speed of your Mac - it did so by making your Mac run smoother if you have multiple applications open at the same time and generally allowing your Mac to do more without slowing it down - but adding an SSD will be make your laptop run faster than it ever has. The difference can be so large, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve got a whole new machine.Read More…